May 27, 2021- Isolation and loneliness have long been community issues that have only amplified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially amongst seniors. During Senior’s Week 2021, we celebrate a program dedicated to connecting seniors with people who care.
Keep in Touch (KIT) is an innovative, collaborative, volunteer driven callers’ program that connects seniors to volunteers for weekly phone chats. Developed by Volunteer Lethbridge (VL), this program connects isolated and lonely seniors to screened and trained volunteers through a telephone support system.
Volunteers take the time to listen, talk and assist seniors with finding resources and supports. In addition to developing friendships, these weekly calls help monitor the health and wellbeing of each senior.
In late 2020, VL reached out to the Rural Development Network (RDN) about expanding this much needed program into rural communities. After a successful application to the COVID-19 Alberta Mental Health and Addiction Community Fund, the two organizations are working to ensure the sustainability of the program through its expansion to rural communities and through the development of an app streamlining the KIT program for smaller communities.
Currently, five rural communities have joined to pilot KIT in their communities. These include: Barons-Eureka-Warner Family & Community Support Services, County of Grande Prairie- FCSS, Strathmore-FCSS, Westlock-FCSS, and Neighbourlink Parkland (Spruce Grove).
This Senior’s week, we encourage communities that are interested in the KIT program to check out our Facebook Page ‘Keep In Touch Program’ or reach out to Kash Helstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KIT is more than just a phone call, it is more than just a conversation, it is confirmation that there is someone that cares, that someone is willing to provide support and that someone is willing to take the time and simply listen. Remember to celebrate and connect with the seniors in your life during this week and every week.
VL exists as a support network for both volunteers and non-profit organizations to help them build capacity and thrive. Our aim is to safely provide opportunities for people to contribute to their community, and to offer continued aid and guidance to the change-makers. volunteerlethbridge.com
supports the sustainability of rural communities. We work with communities to amplify the "rural voice". We collaborate to identify and bring focus to rural issues, build local capacity, and find innovative, rural-based solutions to unique issues. ruraldevelopment.ca
“There are so many members of our community that experience loneliness and isolation, which have devastating effects on both mental and physical health. The Keep in Touch program reconnects people by providing them with a new friend, and someone who can connect them to needed resources if necessary. Volunteer Lethbridge (VL) is proud to partner with the Rural Development Network to expand this program to interested communities throughout the province", says VL’s Executive Director, Amanda Jensen.
“Social isolation and loneliness can increase seniors’ risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions”, says Dee Ann Benard, RDN’s Executive Director. “Older adults are already more likely to feel lonely and isolated, because they are more likely to live alone, to have lost family or friends, or to have chronic illness and hearing loss. COVID-19 has exacerbated this important issue. RDN is pleased to work with VL to make their excellent KIT program accessible to rural Albertan seniors.”